Gen X made cynicism cool. Millennials ruined everything, from fast casual dining and mayonnaise to marriage and diamonds. And Gen Z… who is Gen Z? What do they want? And how should we, as marketers and communicators, speak to them?
While millennials may have made headlines each week with the trends and industries they ‘killed off’, Gen Z is anticipated to be the ‘most disruptive generation ever’ for brand marketing.’ It’s easy to see why — as a generation of ‘digital natives’, Gen Z is hard to pin down in a neat persona and skilled at avoiding unwanted intrusions in their internet world. Zoomers hop to new platforms in less time than it takes to put together an integrated campaign strategy, and avoid ads more than any other generation, through ad-blockers or just quickly hitting ‘skip’ on the creative your team painstakingly worked on.
But don’t abandon hope yet. If you can adapt to their rules, Gen Z is a prime audience. As a generation, they have the fastest growing wealth and buying power and are omnichannel decision makers.
As a Gen Z cusp with a Millennial moon, let me be your translator for marketing to Zoomers, instead of Boomers.
Marketing to Generation Z can be tricky since they’re highly skeptical of brands and businesses, so it’s important to approach them in the right way. Traditional methods of marketing may not always work with this generation – they prefer content that is both informative and entertaining, as opposed to ads or overly polished messages. BUT that doesn’t mean to throw everything you know about marketing out the window. Some of the same rules still apply!
Focus on creating “infotainment” – content that feels authentic and provides value for your target audience. Gen Z prefers content that feels authentic, rather than polished or highly produced. Working with influencers and partnering with content creators are great ways to create an authentic connection between your brand and Gen Z-ers. Above all else, remember to stay true to yourself – be honest about who you are and what you offer, as well as provide value to your audience.
Use the Right Tinder
Gen Z is passionate, and about a large range of topics: environmentalism, diversity and inclusion, human rights, and mental health, just to name a few. They’re also more likely than other generations to make purchasing decisions based on a company or brand’s values. Companies looking to connect with Gen Z have an opportunity – but only if they are willing to go beyond campaigns and actually live out their values in real life. Fan the flames – for good! Authenticity is key here; Gen Z can spot greenwashing and rainbow-washing from a mile away!
Time is Ticking (and Tok-ing)
Zoomers are saving the planet, carrying on a legacy of activists fighting for more protection for intersectional human rights, advocating for better, safer education, disrupting the status quo and healing generational trauma, all while setting records for screen time. If it sounds like they’re busy, it’s because they are! However, despite our generation spending an average of 3 hours per day on social media sites, Gen Z has limited attention spans when it comes to ads—only 1.3 seconds before losing active attention. This highlights how important it is for marketers to get to the point and make it visually appealing.
TL;DR – Know what you need to say, and say it quickly — preferably in video format.
Speak their (Duo)Lingo
Although every generation has their unique lingo that confounds the ones before them, Gen Z has maybe the most rapid churn of slang and in-speak of any generation yet. Pop quiz: Which word do you want commented under your brand’s social post? A) Sus or B)Slay.
We have a language that transcends words – back to hieroglyphics, with complicated memes that reference a library of cultural moments spanning decades.
Learning the language and marketing to Gen Z can be fun if you embrace it, but caution: there’s no lifeguard here. Swim in deep waters if you dare.
Snap Up Gen Z Hires
Gen Z is the most technologically savvy generation to date. If you can’t beat ‘em (or keep up with ‘em), choose ‘em for your team. That’s why organizations like Duolingo are increasingly relying on Gen Z hires to lead their digital strategies and help them crack the code on new platforms Gen Z prefers, like TikTok.
You can also take it from our team — although it was an agency-wide effort that benefitted from having a diverse group of team members with different experience levels, our team leaned into our younger team members’ expertise on how Gen Z thinks in order to drive behavior change and help them find healthier alternatives to vaping and underage marijuana usage as part of our recent ‘Own Your Power’ campaign.
No one is going to help you authentically communicate to Gen Z better than a Zoomer themselves. Trust your interns and make them your full-time hires. We don’t bite (but we do protect our work-life boundaries).
When it comes to marketing, each generation is always changing and evolving. It’s important to take any advice about marketing to an entire generation with a grain of salt, especially with Gen Z being the most diverse generation yet. Trends come and go quickly. Even by the time this blog is published, every trend I’ve referenced will probably move out of Gen Z’s interest. That said, there are some core principles that remain consistent between generations that can help you successfully strategize your next campaign – at least until Gen Alpha finds new ways to change the world.